What should I do about my asbestos siding?

What should I do if I have asbestos siding? Usually the answer is “Nothing”. In fact, often the best approach is to leave it in place. Removal is not usually recommended. Cement Asbestos siding can be covered with many other types of siding if you want an updated look.

There are no laws that require removal of Cement Asbestos siding unless there is a total demolition of the structure.  This is because it is not considered “friable”. What does friable mean? According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), friable means that the material can be crumbled with hand pressure and is therefore likely to emit fibers. Cement Asbestos siding cannot easily be crumbled or pulverized so it is not considered friable. And the chances are extremely low that minimally damaged Cement Asbestos siding is releasing dangerous fibers.

The moral of the story is, if you have cement asbestos siding, there really shouldn’t be much of a concern.

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Is Vermiculite the same as Asbestos?

Every once in a while, we see vermiculite during our inspections.  Vermiculite is a natural mineral that was dug out of a mine in Libby Montana until 1990.  Unfortunately, there was also an asbestos mine at the same location which mixed in with the vermiculite.  As a result, the EPA now considers vermiculite and asbestos-containing material.  Asbestos fibers can cause cancer and other diseases.

Vermiculite is very light and is “friable” which means that disturbing it can cause fibers to be released and float in the air.  If the vermiculite is in an attic, vermiculite dust can collect on various surfaces and become airborne because of air currents in the attic.

If you have vermiculite insulation in the attic, it’s very possible that you have it in the walls as well.  So let’s say you have an electrician come in to install an electrical outlet and he has to cut the wall open. Is he going to release fibers into the air?  If you’re doing a renovation make sure you get a New York State licensed Asbestos Investigator to give you the best advice possible before the renovation.  For more information from the EPA click here:

Here’s what vermiculite looks like:

Hopefully, this will be of help to you in your own home or if it ever comes up during an inspection.

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Asbestos wrapped on a pipe

Asbestos Pipe Insulation

Exposure to asbestos, especially long-term exposure can lead to asbestosis and lung cancer.  Even though asbestos was banned for most products in 1978, it is not required to be removed (abated).  However, there is a caveat, if the building is going to be demolished or pending construction will disturb existing asbestos, the asbestos must be dealt with ahead of time.

Of course, As you can imagine, there are tons of government rules and regulations as to how to deal with asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in floor tiles, insulation around pipes and boilers, in ceiling tiles, and plaster, and on many other surfaces including steel trusses and the underside of the steel supporting roofs, and floor tiles.  Asbestos was used in literally thousands of construction materials so obviously, there are too many to be named here.

The picture above shows some deteriorated pipe insulation which is considered “friable”.  Friable means the material can be crushed with your hand thereby releasing fibers.  This kind of deterioration is quite common in buildings and homes that have not been well maintained.  Most people will want to have friable asbestos removed for safety reasons.

New York State licenses Asbestos Investigators who must be certified in assessing and investigating the presence of asbestos-containing material (ACM).  These licensed individuals are trained to know what materials may contain asbestos and how to collect the samples safely.  The samples then go to a lab where they are analyzed for asbestos and a report is created for the owner or occupant of the property.  Plans for how to deal with the asbestos can then be made.

If you want to learn more about how to deal with possible asbestos in a building or home, the first thing to do is contact a New York State Licensed Asbestos Investigator. For your information, Safe Harbor Inspections Inc can provide this service.

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Basement Tiles

What about Asbestos Floor Tiles?

Up until the 1980s, VAT (vinyl asbestos tiles) were widely used in residential and commercial construction. In the 1980s, vinyl asbestos tiles were phased out. So how do you know if the tiles
contain asbestos? If they were installed prior to the 1980s, more than likely they contain asbestos. Typically, they are 9 x 9” tiles or larger square tiles. BTW, often the mastic/glue holding the tiles down contains asbestos.

If you want to know for sure if they contain asbestos, contact a New York State licensed Asbestos Assessor who will properly collect samples and send them to a laboratory for testing.
So, what do you do if you have vinyl asbestos tiles?

1) If the tiles are in good shape and not crumbled or severely cracking, the authorities recommend that they be left in place because they are not “Friable”. Friable means that the material can be
crumbled in your hand when squeezed. If they are in good shape, you can leave them just as they are and be careful not to disturb them. Or you can cover them with carpet, ceramic tile,
floating floors, hardwood floors, etc. (Do your research to find out the proper way to cover asbestos floor tiles.)

2) If the tiles are cracked or crumbling and sound like they’re breaking when you walk on them, they might be emitting fibers . That means they should be evaluated by a New York State
Licensed Asbestos Assessor who will likely recommend removal, a job for which we recommend using an New York State Asbestos Removal Contractor. This is not a DYI project.

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An attic built with black spruce wood was photographed in Ontario, Canada. Vermiculite insulation and stored boxes show in the image.

Asbestos/Vermiculite Insulation

Is there asbestos in your attic?

BTW, There is lots more information on this subject at

Some houses have a product known as vermiculite in the attic. Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral which has been ground up into little particles and was placed in many attics as insulation. Unfortunately, it’s very lightweight and particles can easily become airborne. Most of the vermiculite used for insulating purposes in the United States came from a mine near Libby, Montana, the same location where asbestos was mined for years. The EPA recommends treating all vermiculite insulation as if it is contaminated with asbestos because it was mined at the same location. Even though attics are not part of the living space in a home, because asbestos is so small and lightweight, there is a very good chance that particles have entered the living space of the home through attic access covers, light fixtures and other openings between the attic and the living space. You may want to check your attic to see if you have a material that looks like the stuff depicted in the photographs. If you do, think about contacting and asbestos testing and removal company. It may or may not contain asbestos, but it’s good for you to know.

People are concerned about asbestos because it is a known carcinogen when it is “friable”. Friable means that it can be broken up when squeezed with your hands. When it is friable it can easily become airborne and inhaled into your lungs where it can cause long-term damage. Asbestos insulation in the attic and around pipes is considered friable. Although there is no law in place it says that you must remove it, it’s a serious consideration. Professional asbestos removal contractors can remove it safely.  There is lots more information at

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